Remember the Province’s second step in their Roadmap to Reopen? The last time we were down to step two was last July, but Omicron has forced another step backward in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Premier Doug Ford announced on Monday that Ontario will be returning to step two as a “time-limited measure needed to preserve capacity,” and that includes no in-person school for until at least the middle of the month.
“We face a tsunami of new cases in the days and weeks ahead, and as we do, virtually everyone in this province will know someone who has been exposed to this virus. Now, we’re bracing for impact,” Ford said at a media announcement Monday morning. The announcement was originally scheduled for 10 am, but it began at 11:20 am.
“Based on the current trends, our public health experts tell us we can see hundreds of thousands of cases every single day, and one per cent of hundreds of thousands is too many new patients for our hospitals to handle,” Ford explained. “Over the past few days, we’ve started to see an alarming number of new hospital admissions. Now with triple digit admissions into hospitals every single day, this is a problem that will only get worse as we confront the looming wave of Omicron.”
According to Minister of Health Christine Elliott, there are 1,232 people with COVID-19 in hospitals across Ontario on Monday with 248 of those people in intensive care units.
So starting on Wednesday at 12:01 am, indoor social gathering limits will be reduced to five people and outdoor gatherings will be limited to 10. Businesses and organizations have to allow employees to work from home unless the nature of their work requires them to be on-site. Capacity limits at indoor weddings, funerals and religious services will be capped at 50 per cent.
Retail business, including shopping malls, will also see capacity capped at 50 per cent, and so will personal care services and public libraries.
Now for the closures. Saunas, steam rooms and oxygen bars are closed. So are regular bars and restaurants, at least for indoor dining. There will be still be allowances for takeout, delivery, and limited patio dining. Concert and performance venues, cinemas, art galleries, museums, science centres, zoos, landmarks and historic places, plus the usual tourist attractions and amusement parks, will be closed too, and so will indoor sports and rec facilities, including gyms.
Outdoor rec and sports facilities will be allowed to continue with up to 50 per cent capacity and no spectators. Although casinos are closed, outdoor horse racing will also be allow to continue at 50 per cent capacity.
All these restrictions will be in place for at least 21 days, according to the Premier.
“Let me be clear, these will be targeted, and they will be time limited,” Ford said. “The immediate goal of these measures will be to blunt the latest wave so we can ease the pressure on our hospitals and allow more time to deliver these all important booster shots which continue at a tremendous pace.”
According to the Government of Ontario, over 3.7 million booster shots have been given out to Ontarians as of January 2.
As for schools, they’re looking to re-open to in-person learning again on January 17, but that will be subject to “public health trends and operational considerations.” School buildings themselves will remain open for child care, and/or to instruct students in special education. As pointed out during the media availability after the announcement, the “limited” school closure has been a promised made before, but Ford said he has to keep his mind on protecting the whole system.
“When I when I talk about the system, I’m talking about the hospitalizations, the schools, the economy, the businesses, that’s who we have to protect, and we’ve never seen anything like this,” Ford explained. “We’re going to continue focusing on making sure that not just schools, but everywhere right across the province can move forward. This may be a bump in the road and a pretty big bump.”
On Monday, Public Health Ontario reported that there were 13,578 new cases in he province, not an all-time high in the number of new daily cases, but it is nearly double the 7-day moving average of new cases from exactly one week ago, which was 7,550. There are presently 130,307 known active cases of COVID-19 across the province, but last week the Province announced that they would be much more limited in testing and that the announced number of cases were not a true reflection of actual number of COVID-19 cases in Ontario.